Washington, DC – Today, leading police executives from states as diverse as California, Iowa and Texas joined a growing chorus of law enforcement officials calling for comprehensive immigration reform.  The law enforcement leaders, who discussed the issue during a telephonic press conference, described how the broken immigration system damages public trust and harms public safety.  They stressed the importance of getting input from state and local law enforcement as Congress prepares to take up immigration reform in early 2010.

The speakers called for reform legislation that would strengthen border security, restore the rule of law, and legalize undocumented workers in order to build relationships of trust between all residents and the police and enhance public safety.

One of the participants in the press call, Chief of Police Rick Braziel of Sacramento, CA, stated, “Our city is one of the most diverse and integrated cities in America.  We celebrate our cultural heritage and differences and strive to be inclusive.  We can’t afford to have a group of residents be afraid of reporting crime because they believe we may report them for deportation.  To allow that fear to exist in the minds of victims or witnesses endangers them and the rest of the community and lets criminals off the hook.  Without comprehensive immigration reform, we place our communities and our nation at risk.  It is time for Congress to take action on immigration reform to increase public safety and encourage full civic participation from all members of our community.”

“We can’t have an officer on every corner so that we may feel safe, but we can expect every citizen to be our eyes and ears.  When members of the community are afraid of the police, it is counterproductive to our mission of public safety and national security.  Not calling the police because of a fear of deportation allows further victimization and harms public safety.  Washington needs to address our failed immigration policies and needs to enact a comprehensive immigration reform immediately,” added Arturo Venegas, the retired Chief of Police from Sacramento and now the Project Director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative (LEEI).

Sheriff Bill McCarthy of Polk County, Iowa said, “In my county we have immigrants working hard and contributing to the economy.  They are part of the fabric of our communities.  As we’ve seen following the government’s raid in Postville, the lack of comprehensive immigration reform is hurting local economies, breaking up families, and compromising community trust.  We need to be sure that every person living here knows that they can talk to the police and report crimes.  Law enforcement needs to stay focused on its mission of preventing and investigating crimes, not checking immigration status.  Comprehensive immigration reform is overdue and needed from a law enforcement perspective.”

Deputy Chief Kim Lemaux of Arlington, Texas spoke about her police department’s participation in a year-long study conducted by the Police Foundation. “Here in Arlington, we came to the conclusion that the issue of immigration needs to remain the responsibility of federal law enforcement agencies. Local police agencies are already tasked with enforcing state, local and traffic laws and we need all of our resources directed at those responsibilities.”   The Police Foundation’s study culminated in a report, released in April, which highlighted the fact that civil immigration enforcement diverts local police departments from core priorities and harms their ability to work with members of the immigrant community to identify and solve crimes.  Deputy Chief Lemaux added, “The Arlington Police Department operates under a community-policing strategy, working to keep all of our residents vested in the safety of their community. If a group of residents fear the police, then they will not turn to officers for help, making them more viable victims. It is imperative that we are able to reach residents in every community in order for local law enforcement to focus on its core mission, fighting crime.  As Congress considers the future of immigration and possible reform in the upcoming session, it is important that the needs and abilities of local law enforcement be a part of the discussion. ”

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